Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau©
I’m about to guide you on the fastest path to homeschooling. Fair warning though — this is no ordinary set of homeschooling instructions. What that mean is, if you’re a die-hard homeschooler, a purist, or someone who’s been researching home education for a long time, do yourself a favor and scroll on by. But, if you’re new to homeschooling and need a whole lot of help, this is the article you’ve been looking for. It’s about crisis homeschooling, suddenly homeschooling, temporary homeschooling, or homeschooling-for-parents-who-never-really-considered-homeschooling-before. This is different from the information you’ll find anywhere else. That’s because you’re a different kind of homeschooler.
If you’re still here, that means you made the cut. You don’t know a lot about homeschooling, and maybe you not really very interested in it. You’re different from other homeschoolers because you didn’t really plan on doing it, at least not now, and not like this. You’re either on the fence, or almost ready to pull the switch, or you’ve already committed but can’t quite wrap your head around what you’re about to do.
If I had to guess, I’d say you’re here for one of only 3 reasons: something happened with your kid or in your family; something happened in the world; or, something happened at your child’s school. And, whatever that was, it was serious enough to force you into making a school choice you hadn’t planned on making.
I’m also guessing you’re very uncertain, and probably pretty nervous. Nobody wants to ruin their kids, and nobody wants to destroy their kids’ futures (I know that crossed your mind). But, the ugly truth, is that you don’t really have a choice, or not much of a choice. Out of all the options, your gut says homeschooling. And so it shall be.
So, now that we’re clear on who you are, I want to reassure you that I understand you completely. You’re a regular person trying to do a really hard thing right now. The last thing you need is a bunch of resources and references to pore over. I’ll keep this very straightforward. I’ll spare you the homeschool philosophy, teaching pedagogy, and the different rationales for doing one thing or the other. I’ll spare you successful research about homeschooling, and all reasons the various criticisms people have about homeschooling really aren’t true. And I’m not expecting you to become some kind of super-homeschooler (although you may if you want to).
You just need information, and you need it now.
Turn on your printer, or grab and pencil & paper. Here’s the basic list, right now:
In a nutshell, here are the things you need to focus on right now:
- Notifying your child’s school and properly withdrawing your student
- Notifying friends, neighbors, or anyone who might notice your activities if your kids aren’t in school
- Listing the classes you think your child needs to take, and finding a way to teach them, either separately, or together (if multiple kids)
- Jotting down the electives or activities your child might enjoy, and finding ways to teach some of those, if you want to
- Locating the laws for your area, and really trying to understand them
- Creating some kind of record-keeping system, and starting to use it as soon as you can
There’s more, but we don’t have time for those right now. Let’s examine those 6 things in more detail first. Then, if you decide you want to know more, I’ve included some of the finer details at the end.
1. Notifying your child’s school and properly withdrawing your student
Assuming you’re coming from a public, private, parochial or charter school, it’s important to contact your child’s school and let them know your plans. Truancy is no joke, so, even if everybody’s doing it, you still want to make sure you do things correctly here. If there’s a district-wide procedure for home learning during crisis, then follow that. But, in individual situations, you’ll probably need to speak to an Assistant Principal, somebody in Guidance, or go through some kind process to make sure your child is unenrolled from school and placed into a homeschooling program. And that’s probably going to be a two-step process (the unenrolling from school, and the enrolling as a homeschooler).
Keep in mind, there may be different ways to bring your child home, so be sure to choose the right option for your situation. Asking to temporarily bring your child home, like for a medical reason, and send your child back in a couple of weeks, is completely different from permanently withdrawing the child to homeschool instead. Laws and procedures vary based on where people live. So, make sure you communicate exactly what you’re doing, so there aren’t issues later on.
By the way, if you love your child’s school and teachers, why not tell them so? It’s okay to keep in touch if you want to — no need to burn bridges. After all, your kid may end up there again some day. On the other hand, if you’re not feeling any love for what you’ve been through, ask for a copy of his or her permanent record and get out of there. No sense subjecting yourselves to any more of that.
2. Notifying friends, neighbors, or anyone who might notice your activities if your kids aren’t in school
When you first start homeschooling, it’s common for people around you start asking questions. This is an interesting phenomenon, actually. While most people are sincere and well-meaning, when a family decides to homeschool, it somehow becomes everybody else’s business. I liken this to changing to a plant-based diet or letting your hair go gray. When doing something different, suddenly everyone’s an expert, everybody has an opinion, and virtually everyone wants to share what they think about it, too.
In light of this phenomenon, in working with many families, I find it’s best to head off these questions early. In other words, tell anyone who is likely to notice that you’re homeschooling, before they get a chance to ask.
Look, in times of crisis, positively everyone will support your decision — in fact, they might even be doing it, too. But, when homeschooling for personal reasons, everybody starts asking why. That’s why I recommend a list of phrases to use on friends and neighbors who get a little nosy, or might be less than supportive. This might include grandparents, too. What’s also nice about this activity, is it forces you to identify the real reasons you’re choosing homeschooling, which is very validating. Then, armed with a few phrases, you’ll always have a reply, instead of becoming defensive, annoyed or flustered when people ask. (This trick, by the way, comes right out of the professional homeschooler’s playbook. We all do it.)
3. Listing the classes you think your child needs to take, and finding a way to teach them, either separately, or together (if multiple kids)
Choose any way that feels right to you at this time:
a. If you think your child might be going back to school in the near future, get a list of classes from your child’s school, the district web site or your state department of education. Keep in mind, when homeschooling, you don’t have to follow those recommendations, but it can be helpful and sometimes reassuring to follow district guidelines for a little while. Then, if you decide to continue homeschooling permanently, you can always change your child’s classes in a few months, or for the next school year.
For textbooks and other curriculum, think about how you want to do it. If your child is likely to go back, you’ll probably worry about them falling behind and needing to catch up when they return. If that’s your concern, I recommend teaching in a similar way to what the other students are doing at the school, in the same grade level. See if your child can use the same books or take the same virtual courses as the ones used in your district. If not, try to find something similar with the same scope & sequence (learning objectives) so your student hasn’t missed a beat when he/she goes back. If testing is required upon re-enrolling in school (find out), be sure any materials you use will adequately prepare your student for the test, too.
b. If you don’t necessarily want to teach the same things as your child’s school, but you like the idea of a structured curriculum, search for an online publisher of homeschooling curriculum. Find a product or a system that makes sense for you, including all the subjects you think you might want to teach for that particular grade (or mix and match grade levels, which is often permitted). You’ll find lots of options for ready-made curriculum whether in print form or online. You’ll usually be given the opportunity to opt out of certain classes that are included in the curriculum, so you can buy only the parts that you need for this year.
I recommend buying from homeschool publishers, only because their products usually come with a schedule, lesson plans, tests, a grading rubric, plus all the instructions to follow day by day. However, if you like the materials used in school, and want to continue with those, you can use those, too. Just be aware it can be hard to follow a classroom textbook unless you have the teacher’s guide and test kit.
By the way, as you’re browsing online, notice if the product you’re considering using is written from a religious or a secular viewpoint. This might not matter to you, but if it does, check out the worldview before buying, to make sure it matches your own (if you can’t tell, call or email the publisher).
c. If a structured curriculum isn’t entirely the way you want your child to learn, and you want to try something a little different, find an online homeschool supplier or bookstore and begin browsing all the products. By searching for different disciplines (e.g., art, math, English, science or multi-disciplinary) you’ll find lots of separate books and products that teach things in different ways. You’ll find lots of school books, certainly. But also look for early readers, novels, workbooks, kits, hands-on activities, maps, timelines, educational games, thematic units, subscriptions, learning toys, and all the other supplies available to balance any books you buy.
Using this “eclectic approach”, your child doesn’t always have to learn the same way for every subject. And, because much of the learning we do in life doesn’t come from books anyway, it’s okay to let kids learn in other ways at home. This method can also be especially helpful when teaching multiple children at the same time, since you can choose products designed for multiple age groups. It’s a great way to engage students who may have disliked certain subjects in school, too, or students who weren’t successful in a traditional classroom at all.
Finally, older children can help select the homeschool materials they use, to make sure they like it. This saves money by not scrapping materials that don’t appeal to your learners, and as a bonus, involving an otherwise unenthusiastic learner will sometimes light a spark you haven’t seen in your child in a long time.
d. If you think you might continue homeschooling for a while, and you’d like to sample the freedom of doing anything you want, think of alternative ways of meeting your classroom goals without having your child take classes at all. Look for ideas or experiences that don’t require formal coursework, but can teach your student exactly what he or she wants to learn anyway. Consider all of options already listed above in a thru c, while also looking into volunteering, internships or apprenticeship programs, using a library or local resource centers, programs at zoos and museums, college level classes online or in person, or allowing your student to submit ideas for an “independent study” to complete on their own.
There are endless ways to learn that don’t involve a classroom, such as traveling to another country, picking up a skill or a new hobby, or sitting down for a conversation with a war veteran. If this style of learning appeals to you, options are wide open to discover opportunities in unique places, while still fulfilling some of your (their) educational goals for the year.
e. If your situation has been too much, and you feel like your child/family needs a break from regular school; OR, if your child/family is going through something that will probably end in a few weeks or months; OR, or if your child really hates school, dreads the thought of homeschooling, and is refusing to try it; unless there’s a reason you cannot, I recommend taking time off from formal school. Then, after a few days or weeks, think about what your family enjoys doing together. Ask your child questions about his/her favorite activities, and find out what things he/she likes to think about when left alone to let the mind wander. Make a list of fun, relaxing, engaging or otherwise positive experiences for you all, and plan ways to start doing some of them together. Then, mark a date on your calendar in a few weeks or months when you can come back and finish completing this step at a later time.
4. Jotting down the electives or activities your child might enjoy, and finding ways to teach some of those, if you want to
This list should represent things outside of the traditional academics your child learns in school. So, for instance, whereas English, math, science and history are normally required, make a list of other things your child might like to study, too. The number of possibilities is infinite, but your list might include spiders, scuba diving, or spirituality. It might include cooking, coding, or crabbing. Your list could also include travel, trampolines or playing the trumpet. Be sure to ask your student, and prioritize them, too. Once you have a list, think how you might be able to teach a couple of those things in homeschool as well. Look for programs in your community, engage local experts, search for online resources, or speak to other parents to see if you can get something going with another group of local kids. This, of course, is all optional, but rounds out the program nicely, and children tend to enjoy having electives and specials throughout the day.
5. Locating the laws for your area, and really trying to understand them
Some areas have relatively strict homeschooling regulations, while most areas allow families to control much of the home education. Find out if there are any laws in your area that specify or limit the kinds of things homeschoolers can do. If the language is confusing, as legal-ese sometimes is, find a local homeschooler to thoroughly explain these laws to you. At minimum, learn whether you need to keep track of your student’s classes and grades, and whether you’ll need to administer a test at the end of the year. Most homeschoolers never have to do those things, but if you live in an area where they’re required, factor them in to your homeschooling plan.
6. Creating some kind of record-keeping system, and starting to use it as soon as you can
If you haven’t ever homeschooled before, you might not know what things to keep track of here. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a classroom teacher, school principal, or guidance counselor and think of what they might normally place into your child’s permanent record. Although homeschoolers don’t have to keep track of those things, it can’t hurt to save papers in a file folder or documents in the cloud (older children might be able to do this on their own). Staying organized brings peace of mind knowing everything important is all in one place. Plus, if you ever send your child back to school, you’ll never have to scramble for documents, because they’re all in one place.
Look, there’s more to homeschooling than what I’ve just told you, but, I’ve given you a lot to think about already. Just finding the resources to teach the classes you identified might take a couple of weeks. So, if your brain is full, feel free to stop here and get started.
However, if you want to continue, or perhaps come back to this article when you have free time, you might also want to think about this stuff, too:
- Joining a support system in your area, to meet people and learn about the opportunities that are available where you live; or, staying in contact with other parents in case you (and they) decide to put your child back in school in the future
- Setting up a work area for your student (and you if you like), or taking some time to organize materials all in one place
- Allowing yourselves to interact with the whole world, not just what’s in and around your immediate area
- Finding opportunities to do things besides just school, since learning happens most everywhere
- Loosening the reigns to allow children to learn some things completely on their own
- Switching up the curriculum if certain things just aren’t working out
- Observing when, where and how your children learn best, and accommodating their preferences wherever you can
- Addressing specific learning challenges you identify along the way; either on your own, using materials designed specifically for that, or with the help of professionals
- Browsing homeschooling web sites and blogs to get even more ideas and inspiration for the future
Whether you end up homeschooling temporarily or decide to stick with it for the long run, following these steps will help you cover the bases until you know what comes next in your lives. Although I know it might seem overwhelming, relax and go easy on yourselves, because you’ve never done anything like this before. Praise yourselves for doing the best you know how under some very trying circumstances. And always know that time spent with your children is never lost, and will probably help you create the lasting memories they’ll remember forever.
By the way, if you want to learn more in the future, I’ll be here for you. I specialize in getting started and you’re the kind of person I work with every single day. I even wrote a book for people like you, which you can find on Amazon, to carry you through everything we didn’t have time to talk about here:
Want to read about other families who are choosing homeschooling right now, just like you? Find their stories HERE.
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Let me know if you have any questions.
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. A homeschooling pioneer and the founder of many groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the public school system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame, with no teaching background whatsoever. A writer, a homeschool leader, and a women’s life coach, Marie-Claire mentors in a variety of areas that impact health, education and lifestyle. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA/Tampa, H.E.R.I., HECOA, Start Homeschooling Summit, Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool Network, and other events. Her articles have appeared in and on Holistic Parenting, CONNECT, Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of sites and blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.